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Ministry Matters

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46)
Happy Fathers’ Day!  Today is the last in our short series on the parables of Jesus.  We have been looking at the wisdom Jesus Christ gives us for sustaining a lifetime of service.


Expectations: When you engage in ministry, you will find that people respond in very different ways to the word of God.


Limitations: While Christ is sowing wheat, Satan is sowing weeds.  The field of the world will be a mixture of good and evil until Christ returns.


Progress: The kingdom of heaven is like mustard seed, and like leaven; despite all the difficulties, it will grow in size and in influence.


In all of these parables, we’ve seen Jesus Christ.  It’s rather like Alfred Hitchcock, who made cameo appearances in his own movies.  He would appear for a moment, getting on a bus, or his picture would be in a newspaper someone was carrying.  The man who made the movie made a brief cameo, and Hitchcock fans would enjoy trying to spot where he appeared.


We’ve found Jesus Christ in all of these parables: He is the sower, who sows the seed of God’s Word into human hearts.  He is the owner of the field, who one day will come to bring in the harvest, and his angels will separate the wheat from the weeds.  He is the mustard seed that grows into a great tree, and the leaven that changes a person’s life by changing their nature.


Today we come to two very short parables, in which it is very easy to see where Jesus Christ appears.  We are looking at the parables of the hidden treasure and of the priceless pearl.  Jesus Christ is the hidden treasure.  He is the pearl of great value.  So please turn with me to Matthew 13:44-46.


These two stories are very simple and very wonderful: They are about searching, finding, selling, and buying.


The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. (Matt. 13:45)


This is a parable for people who are searching.  The merchant already had a fine collection of pearls.  We know this because when he found the pearl of great value he “sold all that he had.”  So in the words of the well-known song by U2, he “still hadn’t found what he was looking for.”  That song is sung by a group of guys who know about religion.  They sing about Jesus dying on the cross.


I have on my heart today the fact that some of you have grown up with Christianity.  You have been brought to church since you were young.  If I asked you what the gospel is, you could tell me, and you could give me an answer that is correct.  But there is a restlessness in your heart.  You still haven’t found what you’re looking for.


That was the position of this pearl merchant.  He had a collection of pearls – some little, some larger, some round, others misshapen, some cloudy, and others clear.  But he was looking for pearls that were better than the ones he already had.


Maybe that describes you today.  There are many good things in your life.  You have some big pearls, and God has given them to you – people and passions that are of great value to you.  But there is a restlessness in you, and you are looking for more.


You sometimes think, “There are many good things in my life, but I know that there is something more.”  You would probably not say this out loud: “I am not satisfied.  I am not happy.  I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”


So to the person who is searching today, I say, this story of Jesus is for you.


The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found… The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one… (Matt. 13:44, 46)


The first thing to say here is that this treasure is hidden.  It is possible to be near this treasure and not to know that it is actually there.  The treasure is “hidden in a field.”  He may have walked across this part of the field countless times.  Maybe he bumped into it with his plow.  He didn’t know it was there.  He’d never seen it before.


You can read the Bible and not see anything of great value in it.  You can come to church, be surrounded by people who love and worship Jesus, but you don’t see what they see in him.  You are an observer.  You see the field, but you don’t see the treasure.


Growing up in Britain, I was raised on the history of the martyrs, godly men of extraordinary courage, who were tied to a wooden pole and burned on account of their faith in Jesus Christ.  284 of them died under the reign of Queen Mary 1st between 1555 and 1558. [1]


Their stories all followed the same pattern.  They were told on pain of death to recant their faith in Christ: “Recant, and you can go home to your families.”  But these men would not recant.  They chose to die horrible deaths instead.  Why?  Because they found Christ more valuable than their own lives.


More than 500 years later we are seeing the same thing again in the Middle East.  Christian believers are being told to recant their faith in Christ on pain of death, and what do we see? We continue to see men and women choosing to die the most brutal of deaths rather than recanting their faith in Christ.


Here is my question: Does that make sense to you?  I’m not asking whether the violence makes sense to you.  Clearly, it is senseless, brutal, and wicked.  What I am asking is this: Does it makes sense to you that in the 21st century, men and women would count Jesus Christ of greater value than their own lives?


This is the point of these parables.  Jesus Christ is the pearl of great price.  He is the treasure hidden in the field, and he is of supreme value.  He is worth more than anything else in this world, more even than life itself.  Do you see that?  Or is it hidden from you?


Why Jesus Christ Is of Supreme Value


  1. Who he is

In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. (Col. 1:19)
In [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col. 2:3)


Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.  He is Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, and he came into this world, born as a baby.


Think about it: Jesus is God in a human body!  He is God with a human psyche!  He is God tempted in human flesh, God pressed on by the demands of people with every kind of need, God loving and working, weeping and blessing, God with us and God for us.


Jesus Christ is of supreme value because nobody else can be who he is!

  1. What he has done

Jesus has lived the life that God requires of every man and every woman.  He lived the life that I have not lived.  He lived the life that God has called you to live.


Jesus Christ has fulfilled the whole law of God in a life of perfect holiness.  Then he laid down this life as a sacrifice.  He gave that life on behalf of sinners.  He took on himself what is due, by the justice of God, to us.  And he bore it.


The story does not end there.  Jesus went into death, but death could not hold him.  He rose in the power of an endless life, and he ascended to the right hand of his Father in heaven, where he stands as the Savior and the Advocate for all his people.


Jesus Christ is of supreme value, not only because of who he is, but because of what he has done.  Nobody else can do what he has done.
iii. What he offers

Jesus says to you, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest for your soul.  My peace I give to you, a peace that this world cannot give.  I have come that your joy may be complete.  I am come that you may have life more abundantly.”


He stands before you today and offers to breathe his Holy Spirit into you and fill you with the power and presence of his own life, to cleanse you from your past and present sins, removing them from you so completely that they cannot be charged against you now or at any time in the future, and to reconcile you to God the Father, transforming your relationship with God from that of a sinner facing impending judgment, to that of a son or daughter anticipating a glorious inheritance.


Jesus Christ is of supreme value, not only because of who he is and what he has done, but because nobody else has what he offers.


  1. He can never be taken from you
    Alexander Maclaren has this very insightful comment, “Nothing that can be taken from me is truly mine.” [2] Think about the big pearls of your life: Your job, your family, your friends, your freedom, the various pleasures of your life, your health, your money, your independence.


All of these things can be taken from you, and one day all of them will be.  Every pearl you gather in this life you will have for a time, except for one: Jesus Christ.  He can never be taken from you.  He is the only pearl that you can ever truly say, “Mine.”


Jesus Christ will stay with you in every circumstance of life.  When you walk through the fire, he will be with you.  He will walk with you through death.  When you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, his rod and staff will comfort you.


He will stand with you on the other side in the presence of the Almighty, where he is able to present you without fault and with great joy.  Jesus Christ alone is able to say to you, “I will never leave you; I will never forsake you.”


When the pearl merchant saw this pearl, he immediately knew its value.  If you are still trying to work out if it is really worth being fully committed to Jesus Christ, you have not yet seen the true value of this treasure.  If you feel that it would be too hard to give up your sins,

you have not yet seen the unique glory of Jesus Christ


When you see the value of all that Christ is, of all that he has done, and of all that he offers, and when you see that he is the only treasure that you can have always, you will say, “What do I need to do to get this treasure?  How can I get this pearl?”  When you see the glory of Jesus, you know you have to make it yours and you’ll be ready to do whatever it takes.


In his joy he goes and sells all that he has…Finding one pearl of great value, [he] went and sold all that he had. (Matt. 13:44, 46)


When a person sees the true worth, the unique value of Jesus Christ, this is the energized response.  There is no reluctance here.  There is no hesitation.  In his joy he sells all that he has.  What does this look like?  The words of Paul from Philippians 3 give us a real life example of what our Lord is describing here.


Listen to Paul laying out the assets that went into his fire sale: “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Phil. 3:4-7).


  1. An identity that could no longer define him

Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews… (Phil. 3:5)


Saul of Tarsus was very proud of his race, “a Hebrew of the Hebrews.”  Race was defining for him.  But when he found Christ, race could no longer define him.  He says, “Having Christ is more to me than being Jewish.”  It is more than being black or white.  It is more than anything that may define you: by birth, by nature, or by culture.


When you are a new creation in Christ, you don’t define yourself by your race, by your work, or by anything else that you find in yourself.  You are a man or a woman in Christ.  You may be a father or a mother, but only for a while.  You may be a banker, an athlete, a teacher, or a missionary, but only for a while.  These are only temporary assignments.  But if you are in Christ, you are a new creation.  That is the identity that defines you.


  1. A community that would no longer welcome him

As to the law, a Pharisee. (Phil. 3:5)


Paul loved being a Pharisee.  It was an elite club, an intellectual atmosphere.  He was on the inside of the cultural influencers.  He says, “Whatever gain I had.”  Being on the inside of the privileged Pharisee circle was a big pearl in Paul’s life.  But from the moment he believed in Jesus Christ, he knew he would never be welcome in the circle again.


The community of the Pharisees would no longer welcome him.  Paul says, “So be it.  I used to see being part of that community as a gain, but when I put that against the supreme value of having Christ, I could only count it a loss.”


You may have the same experience.  Committing yourself to Jesus Christ may well mean that there are social circles in which you are no longer welcome, and communities in which you are no longer at home.


iii. A passion he could no longer pursue because it was outside the will of God

As to zeal, a persecutor of the church. (Phil. 3:6)


The word “zeal” means passion.  Paul had a passion for persecuting the church.  That’s what got him up in the morning.  That’s what gave him energy.  It was the driving cause that motivated his life.  He lived for this.  Here was a man with a passion outside the will of God, and in order to have Christ that passion had to go.


What passion in your life is outside of the will of God?  You have found pleasure in this passion.  It is has become a motivating drive in your life.  But now that you see the supreme value of Jesus Christ, you know that if you are going to have him it has to go.  Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.


It’s very striking to me that Jesus told these parables to the disciples, not to the crowd (Mat. 13:36).  The twelve were there.  That means Judas heard Jesus tell this story.  Judas had been with Jesus and the disciples, but Judas had other pearls that he valued more.  Something else was bigger to him than Jesus, so he sold the pearl of great price for 30 pieces of silver.


If there’s a bigger pearl in your life than Jesus, at some point, you will sell Jesus for that pearl.  That’s why Jesus says, “If you don’t love me more than your father or mother, son or daughter you cannot be my disciple” (Matt. 10:37).  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:27).


If this sounds tough to you, all I can say is that if you do not think Christ is worth it, others do.  If you will not have him, others will.  My prayer for you today is that you would see the supreme value of Jesus and count it worth any price to follow him.


Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field… on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matt. 13:44, 46)


There is a definite transaction here.  That’s why Jesus uses the image of buying and selling.

We know that salvation is a gift that we do not earn.  But it is a gift that must be received.  And it can only be received with empty hands, not hands filled with other pearls.


When the Treasure Is Yours

  1. You know you are rich
    When Christ is yours, you are blessed with every spiritual blessing in him. Don’t ever feel sorry for yourself. “For all things are yours… life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:21-23).


  1. You are no longer searching
    When the trader buys this pearl, he is done trading. He has sold his collection, and so the only way he could do any more trading would be to give up the pearl of great value. So when the pearl merchant has made his purchase, he says, “I am done with that market!  I am no longer in that business.  I have found what I was looking for.”


Jesus Christ is the pearl of great price.  When you have him your search will be over.  When Christ is yours you will no longer be on a long search.  You will find yourself saying with Paul that you want to know more of him and of the power of his resurrection, even if that means sharing in the fellowship of his sufferings.  That’s how a Christian speaks.


The good news is that the owner of the pearl is ready to sell.  If you will have Christ, Christ will be yours.  You must go to God to seal the deal.  The treasure is his.  Christ is his Son.


Go to the Father and tell him that you see supreme value in his Son.  Tell him you have been living for the wrong things and that nothing in your life can compare in value with who Christ is, and what he has done, and what he offers to you.


Tell him that you are ready to give up, “I have been pursuing my own way.  I have been defining my own truth.  And I have been ruling my own life.  From this day forward Jesus Christ will be my way.  Jesus Christ will be my truth.  Jesus Christ will be my life.”


© Colin S. Smith

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[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Protestant_martyrs_of_the_English_Reformation

[2] http://www.ccel.org/ccel/maclaren/matt2.ii.xxx.html